Devotional

Raise the Standard High

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Luke 23:34

In olden days as men marched into war they kept their eyes open for the standard which was a visual signal for where you were to go. The standard-bearer would be close to the leader, providing a rallying point. If anything happened to the standard-bearer and he went down, the whole battle could be lost, since the army would be without direction. If the enemy captured your standard, the honour of the unit was lost.

Today believers are in a spiritual battle and God has given us a standard. The rally point is around God’s Word. It keeps us close to the leader, to our Heavenly Father. It brings the church together with one vision and purpose. Without this Holy book we wouldn’t know Jesus, who must be lifted up to draw all people to Himself. Why is that important?

Jesus’ life demonstrates the principles of spiritual warfare. In purity, faithfulness and love Jesus marches the troops forward, following Him who set the highest of all possible standards. We are to walk in the ways of truth, honour and kindness. We are equipped by God for the battle. First of all He motivates us through the indwelling Holy Spirit to have the right attitudes. Not too many people have gone to war loving their enemies, but Biblical principles clearly state we are to do just that (Matthew 5:44). This remarkable deviation from what is “human” makes a spectacular statement to a world filled with anger, hate and fear.

Following our Saviour’s example, God strengthens followers of Jesus to be joyful in the midst of adversity. Haven’t you noticed how contagious real joy is? People who are always venting over some disappointment, or complaining they haven’t been treated well, often make us nervous because we don’t know when they will begin to see us as their enemy. Joy isn’t about laughter, but it is a deep-seated satisfaction derived from being in the will of God, pleasing Him by our holy thoughts, our intentional choices, and our selflessness.

Selflessness does not mean we become a doormat, or that we succumb to abuse. It is comprised of the intentional deeds we do to help others, to lift them up physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Everyone can encourage those who have fallen. Jesus Himself said he came, not to heal those who are well, but those who are sick (Luke 5:31). Can we see the soul-sickness of those about us? What might we do to help?

Solomon taught “A soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). Spiritual warfare is not for the purpose of gaining ground, but rather for giving grace. Paul taught “Do not take revenge….but leave room for God’s wrath….On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink” (Romans 12:19-20). Our Lord showed grace to His abusers as He cried from the cross “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

Reflection:

Recognizing our own sinful state before we were saved by the love of Christ, provides us with a spirit of empathy. Surely all humans come to the foot of the cross equal in guilt and shame. The exquisite relief of God’s forgiveness must then become the catalyst for us to share His mercy and grace, even with those who are our enemies. Paul continued teaching the Roman church “…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good!” (12:21).

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional

The Panacea of Praise

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I will praise You, O Lord, with all my heart.” Psalm 138:1

Have you ever felt depressed, low in your spirit? Haven’t we all at some point or another? Where do these feelings come from? Many things can trigger nostalgia, – sensory perceptions as well as events are common triggers. Sometimes it’s hard to pin point the source, but the feeling is definitely there! Often the stresses we endure day by day crescendo gradually until we have reached the breaking point. At this point we might fail to see the build-up is enormous.

A very dear friend has been living with chronic pain as well as financial stress, She faces uncertainty about where she will live if she has to move. Add to that a serious let-down in the discovery that friends no longer share the same Christian perspectives, along with coping in a new job and I sense her cup of endurance is overflowing!

However, she has the joie de vivre of a saint! Her love for the Lord Jesus causes her to praise Him continually. What a panacea* for the overwhelming burdens of life! Grateful for all that God has done she looks beyond the events of today to see He is holding her close to his heart, through it all, and that the fiery darts of the evil one cannot touch her because God is shielding her with His gift of faith.

While we might justly grieve over our difficulties, the remedy often lies in our own hands. One cannot complain and praise at the same time. That is a choice we must make! We all know heroes of the faith who have suffered beyond anything we could imagine and yet they found a solution in reaching out. Imagine that we might reach out to the very heart of God! Music rising from hearts of gratitude blesses our Father!

Our strongest testimony occurs in those little seasons when we least expect that what we say or think will make any difference. It is the attitude that colours our world with joy, or buries it in misery. Confounding to our chaotic world is the incredible peace we find in Jesus Christ our Lord who suffered all things for us, and remains to this day the best icon of praise and virtue known by the world. He is our example:

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before

Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down on the right hand of the throne of

God!” (Hebrews 12:2)

Reflection:

Describe a situation where you chose to praise God for the unknowns in your life.

What is the usual attitude of your heart – are you developing a positive persona?

Think about the impact a person who is joyful has on your life.

*Panacea: The solution or remedy for all difficulties

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Justice and Mercy

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Zechariah 7:9-10

Looking at Justice and Mercy first let us define our terms. Justice is seen as the quality of fairness, the principle of moral rightness, the process of fairly using law to judge and punish. It is equal in all cases when deciding what is fair. To be fair one must be honest, upright, honourable, trustworthy. Mercy, on the other hand, is compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.

In the Bible we are told that God is just. Sometimes He links justice and mercy together. “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress….” (Zechariah 7:9-10). Jesus, pronouncing a woe upon the Pharisees, said: “…you neglect justice and the love of God” (Luke 11:42). Hosea also talks about maintaining love and justiceo (2:19). And so we see the prophets speak about the dangers of withholding justice from the poor and oppressed.

Let’s pose a question: How can mortal man bring justice and mercy together in the 21st century?

Mercy is an attitude of heart expressed in feelings of compassion. When we look at a criminal, for example, we might feel compassion for the situation in which that person finds themselves, knowing the judgment that will be a consequence of wrong choices. However, that feeling does not negate the consequences unless justice can be satisfied in some other way.

An example might be in the news account of a man jailed for murder. Having become a Christian while incarcerated, with a compassionate attitude would we not want to see him go free, now that his life had turned around? However, he suffered the death penalty for his crime, willingly acknowledging the mercy of God, while accepting the consequence of his murderous temper.

Divine justice and mercy factor into this account. Would we, with our finite wisdom, pervert the very mercy of God? We need to be wary of being guided by our feelings instead of maintaining a balance between cognitive and emotive understanding. Often our judgment is impacted by our own feelings more than we realize. Instead of facing the result of sin in our lives, we look for any escape from those ramifications.

How does God view each individual situation? There is the promise given through Isaiah “My justice will become a light to the nations” (51:4)! That means that God’s merciful provision for the sins of the nations, through Jesus Christ the Lord, will effectively save those who repent and receive God’s forgiveness. Our knowledge of God gives us a wonderful answer to the dilemma of sin. Divine Justice is not something to fear when tempered with His matchless mercy!

Reflection:

How often do we want to deal with our problems in our own way? Is this not a rejection of God’s mercy? What is the consequence? What is God’s perfect provision?

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

What Will You Do With Jesus?

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Acts 10:25-26

At the end of the day the only question that will matter is “What did you do with Jesus”. His representatives on earth may fall, but Jesus never fails. Lyricists have written songs about His amazing faithfulness to truth and righteousness. The Bible assures us He is the same yesterday, today and forever! (Hebrews 13:8). What a blessed promise in the face of human failure and disappointment.

We might ask another question “Who am I compared to the King of glory, the One who left the glory of heaven (Philippians 2:5-8)to suffer shame and disgrace at Calvary, taking my punishment for sins He never committed?” (Hebrews 10:10-14). Charles Goodman captured the truth as he asked:

Who am I that the King would bleed and die for?
Who am I that He would pray not my will, Thine Lord.
The answer I may never know
Why He ever loved me so
That to an old rugged cross He’d go…
For who am I?

When we see Jesus our gratitude sometimes takes a turn, and we begin to revere the instrument that brought the light of the gospel to us. The apostles leave us with a legacy which we do well to remember. In our scripture today we read that Cornelius called his household together, family, friends and servants to meet the great Apostle Peter.

Like Jonah, Peter resisted sharing his faith with Gentiles. The Gospel was for the Jews, surely. God rebuked Peter and finally he surrendered. It was a long journey from Jerusalem to Caesarea, but Peter had been called by God to go specifically to the home of this Italian military Commander (Acts 10).

What was Peter’s attitude when he arrived? Considering the important role he played in the development of the early Church in Jerusalem, this was a great concession involving time and energy. He could have been condescending, but we see Peter serving Jesus with humility. As Cornelius fell at his feet in the respect demanded by the custom of the day, Peter commanded him to “Get up”! Leaving the crowd in no doubt, Peter declared “I am only a man myself” (Acts 10:25-26).

Peter had learned to come to grips with the limitations of his own humanity. He had failed Jesus many times. He couldn’t stay awake to watch with Him prior to Jesus’ arrest in Gethsemane. He denied that he knew Jesus immediately prior to His crucifixion. Here was another test. This time he didn’t fail. In spite of the Jewish laws which prevented association with Gentiles, God had shown Peter that He cared about the souls of all people, even Gentiles.

”I now realize how true it is that God does not show any favouritism” (Acts 10:34). This was an epiphany for Peter. Suddenly he got it! He found himself preaching about Jesus, sharing ”the good news of peace, through Jesus Christ who is Lord of all” (10:36). His focus was Jesus Christ! As a privileged witness of all that Christ was and did, Peter talked about His life and death as the fulfillment of prophecy and how, following His miraculous resurrection, Jesus ate and drank with His followers. As Paul reminds us “He lives to make intercession for us” (Hebrews 7:24-25) so to Him goes all the honour and glory forever and ever!

The power of the Holy Spirit came upon these Gentiles so that they believed and were baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. This is what happens when we see Christ Jesus lifted up by Godly men and women.

Reflection:

What are you doing with the precious, holy name of Jesus? Do you guard His reputation with your life?

by Marilyn Daniels (marilyndaniels.net)

Devotional

The Judge Stands at the Door

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James 5

The news is full of judgment, whether it is political, criminal or even inspirational. Sports figures and artist are weighed by public opinion and everyone, we are told, is entitled to their own opinion. Strangely enough few people take God’s opinion to heart. However, as our scripture indicates He is the ultimate Judge and even now is waiting, withholding the inevitable judgment on mankind (James 5:9).

James paints a grim picture of the last days! Folks will be hoarding their wealth (James 5:3, 5). Having worked in developing countries where I have seen people picking through garbage to find food, along with storks and rats, I marvel at the waste of food and the self-indulgence as we sit down to tables groaning with plenty, day after day. James observes there is also an attitude which sometimes we see in the twenty-first century. How can we get the best bang for our buck? (James 5:4) Does cheating a workman of the wages he deserves, count as fair? The rich have taken advantage of the poor (James 5:6).

All is not lost. James challenges us to remember the Lord; He is full of compassion and mercy (James 5:11). He calls each of us to be as steadfast as Job was, in our moral integrity. In a day when everyone does what is right in their own eyes, will we find righteous living according to the standards God has clearly laid down in His Word?

Jesus gave us cause for reflection. When Jesus returns will He find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8). How can we call ourselves people of faith if we do not obey the Word of God? Faith is believing, “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Becoming a Christian is not saying a prayer asking for God’s forgiveness, if our lives do not follow the pattern laid down by Jesus. His life was one of obedience to the Father’s will “I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but to do the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38).

Our words must be matched by our deeds when the day of judgment comes. Look at this Judge once more. How much do we have to fear? Is it fear that drives us to do what is right? God has lavished His love on us by sacrificing His only begotten Son (1 John 3:1). That is a love He longs to have reciprocated. “There is no fear in love”, John writes (1 John 4:18). Fear has to do with punishment, and scripture assures us that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

So what does it mean to be “In Christ”? Sometimes we sign our letters with that phrase. What do we mean? Do our lives stand the test? Are we selfless, Christ-centered, generous and kind? Do we endure with patience, believing God allows suffering for a moment but “Joy comes in the morning”? (Psalm 30:5). Are we willing to endure persecution for the sake of our Lord and His gospel message? Do we return good for evil done to us? Can we forgive ourselves knowing the Spirit of God will help us to overcome our weaknesses and failures?

Reflection:

The Judge of all the earth can see deep into our hearts, yours and mine. What does He see?

by Marilyn Daniels (marilyndaniels.net)

Devotional

The Lion of Judah

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Genesis 49

Jacob lay dying. He called for his sons in order to prophecy what would happen to them in days to come. They were a nation displaced from their land. Now the last of Israel’s three great patriarchs would speak to the future!

One by one the sons came to be blessed by their father, Israel. Israel was the name given to Jacob after he wrestled with the angel (Genesis 32:28); it became the corporate name of Jacob’s descendants. Beginning with his firstborn Reuben, Jacob did not hesitate to call those out who had sinned against him. Only two were singled out for significant blessing. Joseph, his long-time favourite, born of his beloved Rachel, used of God to save his family through a raging famine of seven years, Israel recognized had been blessed and used by God Almighty (Genesis 49:24-25). Jacob called Joseph a Prince among his brothers. Given their turbulent family history that must have hurt the others.

But then there was Judah. Fourth son of Leah, Judah meant “praise” and as Jacob predicted, would become a leader among the tribes formed later by each son (:10). We might feel impatient with God’s timing on occasion, but imagine that this prediction did not come true until the time of King David, 640 years later. In actual fact it was not completely fulfilled until the time of Christ.

Jacob predicts Judah, like a lion (:9), will be praised by his brothers. How far reaching was that? Could Jacob possibly have known he was predicting millennial prosperity in verses 11-12? – a time when all nations would fall down in worship before the Lion of Judah! (Revelation 5:5). How thrilling it is to see consistency from beginning to end within the scriptures! It is Jesus to whom John refers when he wrote in Revelation: 

“And one of the elders said unto me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals’ ” (5:5).

“KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16). The title proclaimed at the end of time, indicates one with absolute power over all His realm. When Jesus is proclaimed “King of Kings and Lord of Lords,” it will signify the fulfilment of prophecy, the end of all other rulers and the final acknowledgement of His supremacy.

He, Jesus is the Lion of Judah!

In these days of Lent, preparing our hearts for the events of crucifixion, death, and resurrection, let us not forget it is this Lion of Judah whom we worship as the One who rose victorious over the grave to bring us into eternal life! Halleluah!

Reflection:

Do you feel any emotional response when you hear the title “Lion of Judah”? Why or why not?

How would you describe the Lion of Judah using Bible references and then in your own words?

What promise excites you most about the Lion of Judah?

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Fanning Into Flame

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2 Timothy 1:6

Timothy was Paul’s spiritual [true, dear] son (1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:2). His grandmother Lois and mother Eunice had been impacted by the gospel through Paul’s preaching, while he was in Lystra (Acts 16:1). It seems that Timothy also became a disciple then too.

Paul circumcised him because the Jews all knew that Timothy’s father was Greek. Perhaps in Paul’s mind this would prove Timothy’s conversion was genuine. This has given rise to controversy ever since, about the necessity of circumcision. We know that Paul wrote to the Romans “A man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code” (Romans 2:29).

Paul refers to Timothy’s faith, as a sincere conviction, a living faith! (:5). Just as fire is alive when it burns brightly, Paul uses this metaphor to describe Timothy’s role in the ministry. As a leader he is to fan into flame the gift of God. This gift is the very faith we are talking about (Ephesians 2:8.9). His passion would radically impact the lives of others. He must keep the flame burning brightly!

God, who calls us into His kingdom, will sanctify and seal us, will perfect us [complete what He started in us] until that day (Philippians 1:6). But we also are accountable to Him for how warm or lukewarm we become in the exercising of our faith. Jesus spares nothing when urging the church at Laodicea to overcome their propensity to dawdle at the game of faith. This gift of God could not, must not be taken lightly! To be lukewarm means to be uncommitted.

God’s passion for each human He creates is so great that He sacrificed His only begotten Son out of a deep abiding love, only characteristic of our God. That love is the oxygen which fans the flames of our devotion to God as well as our commitment to others! Does God’s love flowing through us find us setting the world on fire? Why or why not?

Jesus explains His chastisement is based on love “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent!” (Revelation 3:19). He then tenderly invites the wayward believer into renewed fellowship with Himself – “table fellowship” (Revelation 3:20). Those who fan the flame will “sit with me on my throne” (:21). What joy such a hope brings! There is always hope in the life of a believer who is willing to fan the flames of faith – even dying embers can be revived!!

Reflection:

Do we recognize the dangers of being lukewarm Christians?

Can you remember times when your spiritual ardour was waning, when someone fanned into flame the passion you once had for Jesus Christ and the written word of God? What challenges did that provide for you? What did you feel?

How would you like to be the catalyst for others to be spiritually revived?

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional

Judeo-Christian?

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Acts 11:26

Growing up I read several books about Jewish people who converted to Christianity. It became a subject of keen interest which carried over into my work as a nurse in a Jewish community. Wikipedia describes the term Judeo-Christian:

Judeo-Christian is a term used since the 1950s to encompass the common ethical standards

of Christianity and Judaism, such as the Ten Commandments. It has become part of American

civil religion and is often used to promote inter-religious cooperation.“

Since this was a reality in the 1950’s it saddens me to read in a more recent periodical that “The Jewish Community generally views Christianity as a threat because of the long history of ‘Christian’ anti-Semitism.”

One Christian author coined the phrase “Christianity is Jewish.” Since it is our primary authority, what does the Bible say? The first notation we have of the word Christian is in Acts 11:26 “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch”. By definition the word disciple means partisans, or followers – in this case of Christ. ‘Christian’ is a word which appears very few times in the New Testament. King Agrippa, after listening to Paul preach the gospel in his own defense, asked Paul if he thought he could persuade him to become a Christian. The only other time it is used is by Peter who clarifies “…if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear the name” (1 Peter 4:16). A Christian is one who bears Christ’s name.

We need to recognize that these first Christians, men and women who followed Jesus, were all Jews! Would becoming a Christian make them less Jewish? That question has been debated, even by the Jewish community itself, to this day. The President of ‘The Chosen People’ explains: “Jewish people like myself are raised knowing that Jesus is not for Jews….. I stepped over that line in 1970 and discovered to my great surprise, that I was still Jewish!”

Did becoming Christian, Christ-followers, mean they left the faith of their fathers? If the Messiah was anticipated by the Israelite nation as one sent from God to His own people, to free them from oppression, and if Jesus is that Messiah, following Him would not mean leaving the faith of their fathers.

Christianity must honour the roots of our faith revealed in Judaism. Gentiles have been included in prophecy as far back as Abraham (Genesis12:3), so it is not a nationalistic faith but an inclusive one. The Psalmist urges us to pray for peace in Jerusalem Why?

Praying for the peace of Jerusalem is most appropriate for a city whose name literally means “peaceful” and which is the residence of the God of peace. Further, Jerusalem will be the scene of Christ’s return (Acts 1:11; Zechariah 14:4), and at that time He will establish permanent peace within its walls. True Christians must be eagerly awaiting His return, and praying for the time when the Prince of Peace will reign in Jerusalem. “For unto us a Child is born….the Prince of Peace, of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end, He will reign…..forever!” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

There is no room in the economy of God for anti-Semitism or anti-Christianity between Jews and Christians. We need to encourage one another in our faith because when one reads the Old Testament, under the Spirit of God, Jesus the Messiah is recognizable. Together we may be united under Christ!

Reflection:

What does the designation Judeo-Christian mean to you? Explain.

Does becoming a Christian make one less Jewish?

What binds Jews and Christians together?

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional

When God Withdraws

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Romans 1

In the Epistle to the Romans, Paul begins with some Biblical truth, in order to ground the Roman Church. He includes truths revealed in scripture about God, Himself. Now that Paul has described God’s character to us, he turns to compare it with man’s. What a disappointment humankind must be to our Creator. He gets little glory or appreciation for all that He has done for us! In fact it is quite the opposite. Man, giving in to the folly of pride, started creating his own gods. ”…their foolish hearts were darkened” (:22).

First of all man’s intellect became his god. What he thought, what he believed, what he chose to worship, became of primary importance. Where did that take him? God first gave man over to sinful desires. His thinking was infected with self-righteousness.

Second, God gave them over to shameful lusts, through which any sexual behaviour became appropriate. The heart of man became suspect, as his feelings led his head. This was not the Creator’s intention. He had revealed Himself repeatedly, through acts of mercy, through scripture, through our Lord Jesus Christ. However, Paul writes – “Although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21).

Third God gave them over to a depraved mind. The mind of mankind, originally created with all the potential of Godly decision-making, became filled with every kind of evil, greed and depravity resulting in a whole list of godless activities (Romans 1:29-31). Today our society, if not condoning these, will excuse murders, insolence, mistreatment of parents, hating God, in a spirit of senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless living. The final line is drawn when they decide to approve of everyone doing such things (Romans 1:32); seen in the freedom of man’s wisdom running loose.

Note that three times Paul says “God gave them over”. Leaving man to decide his own fate, God withdrew. His character did not change. He is always, eternally, a God of love and truth and holiness. However, sin and holiness are like oil and water – they do not mix.

How is the faith community to respond? We are to love our enemies – the person, not the sin. That is very hard to do. Out of fear we want to see these evils corrected. We fear for the salvation of our loved ones, for the infection of sin which is spreading throughout society, pandemically. But we are a community of faith and our faith is put into practice by doing what Jesus would do. What would Jesus do if He walked through North America today, for example?

Is it possible to bridge the gap between right and wrong? No! Jesus already has done that with His life, and death, yet people still reject His remedy for the sickness of sin. The best we can hope for is that His joy and peace, demonstrated in a spirit of love, will create a yearning in hearts darkened by an error that is spreading like wild-fire in our hedonistic society today. We know that God has already gone to the nth degree to correct these evils, but His love is everlasting!

So we pray that the Light will still provide Life, drawing men and women out of the pit they are digging for themselves. Let us all remember at the dawn of a New Year, that positive change always begins with “me”. Furthermore, I am the only person over whom I can really have any control. With God the Holy Spirit’s help I can exercise that required control which will temper my mind and heart, and my reactions to things others do to irk me.


Reflection:

Which is the greatest sin of our day? Is one worse than another? Do we not all continue to sin in small ways or large? How dangerous is prejudice? Is this why Jesus commanded us not to judge others?

The Psalmist prayed that God would search his heart (Psalm 139:23).

Let us pray: “Create in me a new heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit in me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, or take Your Holy Spirit from me, Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and grant a willing spirit to sustain me.” Amen (Psalm 51:10-12).

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional

The Christmas Story Unfolds

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Perhaps it will surprise you to know that the Christmas story begins in Genesis. We need to look at some background. The earth was not God’s first creation. Created beings lived with Him in heaven long before earth took shape. How long Lucifer, one of many angels, existed before the creation of man, we are not told.

God created Lucifer [meaning “Shining One”]. Ezekiel describes him as chief among the angels, powerful, intelligent and very beautiful (Ezekiel 28:13-17). What we learn from Ezekiel and Isaiah is that rivalry developed; Satan wanted not just to be like God, but to be in control (Isaiah 14:12-14). That is when things began to fall apart. It is important for us to understand that God did not create evil in the person of Satan [meaning “accuser”]. Privileges were taken for granted, as power was coveted. Satan’s attempt to seduce Eve and Adam, demonstrated his continuing efforts to control God’s creation.

How does this relate to Christmas? As God cursed the serpent, the creature used by Satan to tempt Eve, He predicted that Satan would bruise the heel of One who would actually extinguish any power the Devil gained in intervening years, by crushing Satan’s head.

We know of course, that this is what happened during the Easter event when Jesus was crucified (bruised seems a light term for His great suffering). But wait! Jesus rose from the dead – the Divine Conqueror of death! His resurrection crushed the determined efforts of the “accuser of the brethren”. Revelation 12 describes that final battle in heaven. As the Devil is hurled to the earth, salvation is complete; the power and the Kingdom of God, authorized by the blood of Christ overcomes him.

How was all of this possible? God sent a tiny baby, born of a virgin to bless all nations of the earth (Isaiah 7:14). This was also fulfillment of a prophecy given thousands of years before to a man named Abram. The author of Genesis writes the promise of God to this man He renamed Abraham [meaning “father of a great number”]. “I will make you a great nation….and all people on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3). That promise was repeated to God’s covenant people, the nation He promised Abraham’s progeny would become.

Matthew begins his gospel “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac…..” Writing specifically to the Jews, it is crucial for Matthew to begin with the one they called Father Abraham. Ryrie explains “The common teaching of that day said that the Jews participated in the merits of Abraham, which made their prayers acceptable, helped in war, expiated sins, appeased the wrath of God and ensured a share in God’s eternal kingdom” (Page 1463 Ryrie Study Bible) No wonder they were so shocked when John and Jesus preached the need for personal repentance!

The Apostle John records the dissension caused by Jesus, claiming God as His Father (John 8:33-58). His statement that He existed before Abraham was the final straw. This was blasphemy in the ears of orthodox Jews. Yet here we are celebrating Jesus! Not only do we rejoice in His birth, but His life has given us eternal life! So at Christmas it really is impossible to remember His birth, miraculous as it was, without thinking of His death on a cross. Hallelujah! That was not the end because He rose again to bring spiritual healing and glorious hope to all who would believe and receive Him! (John 1:12-13).

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net